John Jasper, a brooding, moody choirmaster at a finishing school in Victorian England, maintains a secret life that includes frequenting an opium den. His tortured mind becomes obsessed with a young student, Rosa Bud, who is engaged to his nephew Edwin Drood. When she senses the intensity of Jasper's feelings, she becomes frightened of him and avoids his company. When the mixed-blooded Neville Landless and his twin sister Helena arrive at the school from Ceylon, Neville and Edwin take an immediate dislike to one another over Rosa's affections. Although they quarrel and make up, Edwin disappears, and suspicion logically falls on the quick-tempered Neville. Written by
Shooting began Nov. 18, 1934, completed in January, 1935, released Feb. 4. See more »
After the first dinner party, as David Manners and Douglass Montgomery are walking down the street to go home, the shadow of the boom mike can be seen in the background on the side of the buildings. See more »
Included in Universal's popular SHOCK THEATER television package
1935's "Mystery of Edwin Drood" was Universal's followup to their equally lavish Dickens adaptation "Great Expectations," on par with later efforts such as "Tower of London" and "The House of the Seven Gables." The unfinished 1870 story certainly begged for a proper solution, baffling bibliophiles over the decades, but this film's weakest flaw is that its depiction is fatally predictable. We are shown right away the drug-addled choirmaster John Jasper (Claude Rains), whose frequent illnesses are a mask for his addiction to opium (a welcome touch seemingly missed by the Hays code). Jasper's secret desire for his lovely young ward Rosa Bud (Heather Angel) is clearly no surprise to her, his piercing gaze sending her into paroxysms of fear, and since she has been betrothed since childhood to Jasper's beloved nephew Edwin Drood (David Manners), evil thoughts begin to grow in the older man's mind. Enter Neville Landless (Douglass Montgomery) and his beautiful sister Helena (Valerie Hobson), recent arrivals from Ceylon, allowing Jasper to foment an acrimonious rivalry over Rosa between the hot tempered Neville (who has quickly fallen for her) and her intended groom. There are precious few surprises in the script as written, so it's up to the excellent cast to carry the day. With so many Dickensian characters surrounding him, Claude Rains actually winds up in a subordinate role, while Douglass Montgomery, typecast in romantic parts, relishes the opportunity for some real scenery chewing in disguise. Heather Angel had one future genre title ahead, 1942's "The Undying Monster," while 17 year old Valerie Hobson was apparently Universal's busiest starlet of 1935, immediately rejoining director Stuart Walker on "WereWolf of London" (along with Zeffie Tilbury, Ethel Griffies, Vera Buckland, and J. M. Kerrigan). David Manners bid farewell to Universal here, completing just five more low budget features before quitting Hollywood by 1937. Look fast for unbilled bits from Will Geer, lighting lamps 44 minutes in, and Walter Brennan, gossiping about Neville Landless at the 30 minute mark. Despite its inclusion in Universal's popular SHOCK! television package of the late 50s, "Mystery of Edwin Drood" never once made the rounds on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater, a fate that also befell 1935's "The Great Impersonation," 1938's "The Last Warning," 1939's "The Witness Vanishes," and 1942's "Mystery of Marie Roget."
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